NOV 24, 2017 10:34 AM PST

Discovery of Compound Provides New Hope for Treating Autoimmune Disease

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The majority of drugs available for people with autoimmune diseases are only designed to alleviate symptoms, as opposed to targeting the root cause of disease. Thanks to the discovery of a new “drug-like compound,” University of Colorado at Boulder scientists believe they can work toward the development of new drugs that target the cause instead of just the symptoms.

Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). Credit: European Bioinformatics Institute

The new discovery starts with a component of the innate, or non-specific, immune system called toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8). Upon sensation of a pathogen, TLR8 triggers a domino reaction that changes the receptor from a passive state to an active state. Activate TLR8 releases inflammatory signals that are good for fighting bacteria and viruses, but bad for healthy tissues if the response goes overboard.

Historically, TLR8 has been difficult to study and apply as a drug target because it is “hidden inside the endosome,” while most drug targets are on the cell’s surface. The new CU Boulder study, in an effort to find a molecule to bind TLR8, completed high-throughput screening of more than 14,000 small molecule compounds. Out of the thousands, researchers zeroed in on just four with the potential to have the proper chemical structure for the job.

Using these four small molecules as a model, researchers chemically synthesized their own compound to bind TLR8, preventing TLR8 activity instead of silencing an already-active TLR8. "Before, people were trying to close the open door to shut it down. We found the key to lock the door from the inside so it never opens," explained lead author Hang Hubert Yin.

Yin calls the new synthesized compound and the approach to blocking TLR8 activation “paradigm shifting.”

In the future, Yin and his team plan on continuing their studies of the new TLR8-binding compound and its potential to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases that cause pain, inflammation, and other chronic health issues. Existing drugs can be costly and cause side effects, so the new compound could be the answer for many scientists looking for alternatives.

Yin is planning animal studies and human clinical trials, to learn more about TLR8 and other toll-like receptors.

The present study was published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 19, 2019
Neuroscience
OCT 19, 2019
Autism May be Linked to an Immune Disorder
Until now, diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder have relied on behavioral assessments looking for symptoms including poor social and communication skills...
NOV 19, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 19, 2019
Ketogenic Diet Appears to Help Protect Against the Flu
The ketogenic diet forces the body to use stored fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates; the fat gets broken down into ketone bodies....
NOV 29, 2019
Immunology
NOV 29, 2019
Protecting Killer Immune Cells from Themselves
Destroying human cells compromised by viruses and cancer is the name of the game for so-called “killer” cells of the immune system. They employ...
DEC 05, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 05, 2019
New Injection that Treats Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergies affect between 1 and 3% of the US population. Associated with a heightened risk of severe anaphylactic reactions, oral immunotherapy is th...
DEC 10, 2019
Immunology
DEC 10, 2019
T Cell Subset Uniquely Equipped to Target IBD
A specialized form of T cell emerges as a new focus for gastrointestinal health research, specifically in the context of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) f...
MAR 11, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 11, 2020
Categories of Memory Work Together to Form Abstract Thought
Indiana University New research from the University of Trento shows how areas of the brain work to recall complex semantic information.  The brain sto...
Loading Comments...